Opposites like "war" and "peace" form a theme that Tolstoy repeats over and over in the novel. The chapters preceding this page contain long descriptions of the capture and burning of Moscow. Now we are suddenly in Petersburg, and the contrast to the violence and destruction taking place in Moscow is stunning.
In Petersburg, in the highest circles, a complex struggle was going on with greater heat than ever between the parties of Rumyantsev, the French, Maria Feodorovna, the grand duke, and others, drowned as always by the humming of the court drones. But the calm, luxurious life of Petersburg, concerned only with phantoms, with reflections of life, went on as of old; and beyond this course of life it took great effort to realize the danger and the difficult situation the Russian people were in. -- Otto
from page 411-412, volume 2 of original text
collage, ink, sulphur (burning)
Pevear/Volokhonsky translation page 935-937